jails

Robby Korth / StateImpact Oklahoma

Coronavirus is disrupting public life and leaders in local and state government are trying to slow the disease’s advance. StateImpact reporters Robby Korth and Quinton Chandler examine how schools and local jails – public institutions where people are legally required to gather – are coping.

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

An arrest in Roger Mills County ends with a drive into the sheriff department’s garage and a short walk through the jail’s heavy door. Sheriff Darren Atha and his deputies bring their prisoner inside, they search them, sit them down in a brown chair and start booking them.

The Roger Mills County Jail is roughly 20 miles from the state’s western border. It’s a small rural jail that holds up to 28 people and Sheriff Atha says it’s a safe place to be.

“We just really don’t operate a dungeon,” Atha said.

Faced with a flood of addicted inmates and challenged by lawsuits, America's county jails are struggling to adjust to an opioid health crisis that has turned many of the jails into their area's largest drug treatment centers.

In an effort to get a handle on the problem, more jails are adding some form of medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, to help inmates safely detox from opioids and stay clean behind bars and after release.

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Control of the state’s largest county jail could be placed under the authority of a public-private trust according to a plan considered Thursday by an Oklahoma County advisory group.

Members of the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Advisory Council voted to recommend county commissioners consider a draft proposal to give oversight of the Oklahoma County Jail’s operations to a trust made up of one county commissioner, the county sheriff and seven private citizens.

Under the proposal, the seven appointees would be chosen by the county’s three commissioners.

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Cows recognize the truck that feeds them. Seconds after Terry Sue Barnett’s feed truck rumbled into their pasture, her hungry herd perked up and turned to follow her.

“Just because they know this feed truck, and they think they’re going to get fed,” Barnett said.

Barnett is in her element. She stares out of the driver’s side window as she makes a short loop through the pasture — checking the health of her animals after a wet winter and a hard calving season.

Barnett would rather be here tending her cows than back at her old job running the Nowata County Jail.

This Week in Oklahoma Politics, KOSU's Michael Cross talks with Republican Political Consultant Neva Hill and ACLU Oklahoma Executive Director Ryan Kiesel about a $270M settlement between Oklahoma and Purdue Pharma with the lion share of the money going to OSU's Health Center in Tulsa, the leader of the Senate forms a working group on Cost of Living Adjustment for state retirees and a number of issues have recently arisen at county jails including Nowata, Washington and Oklahoma.

DeVonte Jones began to show signs of schizophrenia as a teenager. His first public episode was nine years ago at a ballgame at Wavering Park, in Quincy, Ill.

"He snapped out and just went around and started kicking people," says Jones' mother, Linda Colon, who now lives in a Chicago suburb.

The police were called. Jones was arrested, charged with aggravated battery and placed in Adams County Jail. Colon says Jones had no recollection of what happened.